Ex-Saatchi & Saatchi World­wide chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer, STW di­rec­tor, As­sign­ment Group don and but­ter afi­cionado Peter Cul­li­nane of­fers up some hard-earned pearls of ad­ver­tis­ing wis­dom.

New Zealand Marketing - - Shorts -

I’ve been in ad­ver­tis­ing for many years, but it seems to be a young per­son’s game th­ese days. Do you think the in­dus­try has lost re­spect for its el­ders and in­stead reveres those who know how to work the shiny, new toys?

I’ve never be­lieved that you have to ‘earn re­spect.’ In­stead, I think we should re­spect peo­ple un­til they lose the right to be re­spected. You’re un­likely to win on the dig­i­tal savvy front but you should win hands down on un­der­stand­ing what makes con­sumers tick and how best to con­nect with them. Now, about those shiny new toys. The big­gest thing to hit our in­dus­try since tele­vi­sion is the ar­rival of dig­i­tal. And it makes sense that dig­i­tal na­tives are the ‘go to’ peo­ple for dig­i­tal. That said, I think there is a real risk that the means is con­sid­ered more im­por­tant than the end. They are only of value when ap­plied. I have al­ways held the view that com­mu­ni­ca­tions (and the abil­ity to com­mu­ni­cate per­sua­sively) will be­come ever more im­por­tant and are the core skill of our busi­ness. The tools we use are sim­ply that. Bill Bern­bach ex­pressed this bril­liantly more than 50 years ago when he said: ‘It took mil­lions of years for man’s in­stincts to de­velop. It will take mil­lions more for them to even vary. It is fash­ion­able to talk about chang­ing man. A com­mu­ni­ca­tor must be con­cerned with un­chang­ing man, with his ob­ses­sive drive to sur­vive, to be ad­mired, to suc­ceed, to love, to take care of his own.’

Why is ad­ver­tis­ing still seen as some­thing of a laugh­ing stock among the busi­ness com­mu­nity? How can that be changed? And is it a case of chang­ing the in­dus­try, or do­ing a bet­ter job of show­ing the bean coun­ters how pow­er­ful cre­ativ­ity can be for busi­ness?

It didn’t use to be. Quite the con­trary. In the days when brands were be­ing built, ad­ver­tis­ing was an in­dis­pen­si­ble part of their suc­cess and com­manded the at­ten­tion of the chief ex­ec­u­tive. Its im­pact and value were un­ques­tioned. Now in an age of frag­men­ta­tion, cost cut­ting and sweat­ing the as­sets, ad­ver­tis­ing has lost its place. Most of the blame lies at our own feet. As an in­dus­try, we’re poor learn­ers and poor sell­ers of our own value. Few of us can ar­tic­u­late a strong case for ad­ver­tis­ing or ar­rive at a soundly based rec­om­men­da­tion about how much to spend and where to spend it. Our vi­sion has been nar­rowed to the ex­e­cu­tion it­self, but even here there’s not a con­vinc­ing body of ev­i­dence or even shared knowl­edge about what works and why. Of course, the usual ex­cuse is that ad­ver­tis­ing re­quires orig­i­nal­ity and by def­i­ni­tion what has gone be­fore will not work in the fu­ture. While that’s true of spe­cific ex­e­cu­tions, it is not true of the role ad­ver­tis­ing should play in the over­all busi­ness mix. And un­til we can talk with as much au­thor­ity as the ‘bean coun­ters’ etc., we don’t de­serve to be taken se­ri­ously. It’s all about facts and fig­ures, be­cause knowl­edge is power. To work in ad­ver­tis­ing means we have a priv­i­leged insight into a vast range of busi­ness prob­lems and ways to suc­cess­fully tackle them. That knowl­edge should be worth gold to chief ex­ec­u­tives and top man­age­ment seek­ing new ways to solve new is­sues. And we need to get real. We need to know what it feels like to ‘write the cheque’ be­cause we’re too of­ten rightly ac­cused of be­ing all care and no re­spon­si­bil­ity. We need to think first about the busi­ness prob­lem that needs to be solved be­fore rush­ing to an ad so­lu­tion. We need to use that knowl­edge to re­gain (or re­tain) a seat at the ta­ble.

What’s the best way of deal­ing with a tur­key—and mak­ing sure the client sticks with you af­ter­wards?






Am­ne­sia has its ben­e­fits. I do re­mem­ber one cam­paign we cre­ated for Tegel that used an­i­ma­tion and fea­tured an Elvis Presley track ‘Love me ten­der.’ Roger MacDon­nell de­scribed it as a dead man singing about a dead bird. It was, ex­cuse the pun, a tur­key. One of the keys to great food ad­ver­tis­ing is that the work should make you want to eat the tele­vi­sion. If it’s not ap­petis­ing, it won’t work. Another was for Holden, in which we mailed house­holds a key and of­fered a free car to who­ever was able to un­lock the car. It had a huge re­sponse but un­for­tu­nately as the day wore on, the tum­blers in the locks be­came in­ac­ti­vated, so by the end of the day, hun­dreds of keys were un­lock­ing the cars. Dis­as­ter!

Cer­tainly some cam­paigns work bet­ter than oth­ers. To me, there is not re­ally much of an ex­cuse for a cam­paign that doesn’t work. There’s no rea­son for fail­ure if you do the home­work and ex­e­cute well. If, how­ever, de­spite all the best in­ten­tions and plan­ning, things go pear shaped, the best you can do is front up to the is­sue and pro­vide a way out and a new way for­ward. Clients rely on us to give them work that works. If it doesn’t, we owe it to them to solve the prob­lem and the sooner it’s solved the bet­ter. That said, fail­ure is a bruis­ing is­sue and my guess is that any agency that has se­ri­ously dropped the ball is un­likely to re­tain the client long term. Best to start look­ing for a re­place­ment!

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